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interactive language learning
Will you be my CUP?

Civil Union partnerships in New Zealand:

an alternative to marriage

New Zealand is one of the first countries in the world to offer couples an alternative to a traditional legal marriage.

A 'civil union' is, like marriage, a way in which couples can have their relationship legally and formally recognised. Civil union is for different-sex couples who may want to have their relationship formally recognised, but for some reason do not want to marry. Civil union is also for same-sex couples, who at present cannot legally marry. For these same-sex couples, civil union is a way to get their relationship recognised by law, giving them the same legal status as married couples.

The Civil Union Bill, which came into effect on 26 April 2005, promotes respect for all people in New Zealand society. It recognizes changes in relationships in these modern times, and promotes human rights. When married, a couple can call each other husband and wife. When joined under the Civil Union Bill, couples can call each other 'civil union partners' or 'CUPs'. Both marriages and civil unions have to be made publicly in front of a registrar or celebrant. Religious organisations which conduct marriages will decide for themselves if they also want to conduct civil unions.

The Civil Union Bill has been very controversial. People who are against the idea believe that it is an attack on the idea of marriage. Others believe it is 'wrong' for same-sex couples to have the same legal rights as different-sex couples. Some religious groups do not believe in homosexuality and think that the government should not support or acknowledge same-sex relationships at all. The New Zealand Parliament was divided on the issue, and voted 65--55 to pass the Civil Union Bill.

If you want your relationship recognised under the Civil Union Bill, you have to get a 'Notice of Intended Civil Union' form from the Registrar of Civil Unions, and pay a fee. Then you can have a civil union ceremony. At that ceremony you will sign two copies of a form called 'Copy of Particulars of Civil Union'. After the civil union ceremony your celebrant will give all the necessary papers to the Registrar of Births, Deaths, and Marriages. You do not need to do anything else, but you will get a copy of the Copy of Particulars of Civil Union form for your own records. This is a legal document showing that you and your partner are CUPs.


  • alternative -- something that is a different choice from another similar thing
  • legally and formally -- done in a legal and formal way
  • different-sex couples -- a man and a woman
  • same-sex couples -- a woman and a woman, or a man and a man
  • status -- position in society
  • came into effect -- became law
  • promotes -- supports and encourages
  • registrar or celebrant -- someone who can legally perform a marriage or civil union
  • conduct -- lead the ceremony
  • controversial -- an idea that many people agree with and many people disagree with
  • homosexuality -- when people have same-sex relationships
  • was divided -- could not agree


  • Are Civil Unions allowed in your first country?
  • Do you think they are a good idea? If not, why not?

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